Feb 07

Dodgers sign Clayton Kershaw to two-year deal


The Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw have agreed to terms on a two-year contract that will keep him out of an arbitration deal at least until 2014, the year he could theoretically become a free agent over my dead body. Details on the deal to come …

Update: Dylan Hernandez of the Times tweets that the deal is worth $19 million. You would figure about $8.5 million of that would come this year and $10.5 million next year, though with the Dodger sale in progress, it might not slice quite like that.

By comparison, Tim Lincecum earned $23 million over his first two arbitration-eligible years (2010-11), which followed back-to-back Cy Young Award wins in 2008 and 2009.

Update 2: The contract is only slightly backloaded, reports Hernandez: $8 million (including a $500,000 signing bonus) in 2012, $11 million in 2013.

Update 3: The Dodgers will pay Kershaw and Matt Kemp a combined $18 million in 2012 and a combined $33 million in 2013. Kemp is earning $10 million this year and $20 million plus $2 million in deferred money next year.

Update 4: Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports that $2 million of Kershaw’s 2012 salary is deferred, meaning he’ll be paid $6 million in 2012 and $13 million in 2013. That means the Kemp-Kershaw combo gets $16 million this year and $35 million next year.

Update 5: More from Jackson …

… Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti credited Alex Tamin, the club’s newly hired director of contracts, research and operations who was handing all the team’s arbitration cases for the first time, with coming up with a deal that was fair to both sides.

“It was a full-length process, and it took awhile,” Colletti said. “We had one-year discussions, two-year discussions and four-year discussions. There were a lot of different things in play all the time. Alex did a great job of managing it and keeping it level and giving us a chance at a multiyear deal that gives Clayton and his family some security. And for us, you know what you’re going to be paying (for two years).”

Said Kershaw of the deal: “There were a couple other options (in terms of years), but we felt like this was the best for both sides.” …

Feb 07

Infielder roulette

Monday was a day of past Dodger infielders making news, and present Dodger infielders become past ones.

  • Russell Mitchell was designated for assignment to make room on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster for Todd Coffey. He could return to the organization if he clears waivers. (Remembering 2011: Russell Mitchell)
  • Blake DeWitt, once upon a time known as “The Solution,” was designated for assignment by the Cubs, who acquired him in the Ted Lilly trade a couple years back. DeWitt, 26, had a 95 OPS+ (.305 on-base percentage, .413 slugging) with Chicago in 2011, compared with Adam Kennedy’s 79 OPS+ for Seattle – but don’t expect the Dodgers to give someone up to acquire DeWitt, who more likely would end up back in the minors for the Cubs.
  • Alex Cora is still at it, signing a minor-league deal with St. Louis.
  • Edwin Jackson reportedly turned down a three-year, $30 million deal with Pittsburgh to sign with Washington for one year and $11 million, banking on doing better in next season’s free-agent market (or just determined to set a record for organizations in a career).
  • Dodgers assistant general manager of amateur and international scouting Logan White talked about some of his prize picks – Zach Lee, Clayton Kershaw, Allen Webster, Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Reed – with David Laurila for Fangraphs.
  • Up-and-coming reliever Shawn Tolleson was profiled by Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • The late Jose Lima is the subject of a recent SABR biography by Rory Costello.
  • Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. is taking a day-by-day look at the Dodgers’ divisional rivals, starting with Arizona on Monday and continuing with San Francisco today.
  • Monday in Jon SooHoo: Blake Griffin and Matt Kemp.
  • Mark Prior is trying one more time to salvage his pitching career, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (via Drew Silva of Hardball Talk). Prior last pitched in the majors in 2006 and won only two games after his 25th birthday.
  • Also aspiring to come back: Brandon Webb, out since Opening Day 2009.
  • Tim Lincecum talks about Clayton Kershaw, among other topics, in this video passed along by Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • Here’s a simple dice baseball game designed for kids ages 3-6, via Baseball Think Factory.
  • One last baseball-oriented remark about “Smash” that I tweeted: “Hilty is the proven veteran talent. McPhee is green but higher-ceiling. It’s Juan Rivera vs. Jerry Sands. Harang vs. Eovaldi.”  Except this wasn’t quite right. It’s more like A.J. Ellis vs. Tim Federowicz.
  • Ten years ago, while on detail for MLB.com in Venezuela, former Dodger communications vice president Josh Rawitch wrote about an up-and-coming Rivera.
  • In this terrific podcast interview, ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Kamenetzky brothers talk to Oscar-nominated actor Gary Oldman about, among many other things in a 45-minute chat, his great admiration and love for baseball.
  • This seemed to fascinate some folks on Twitter late Monday: Take a look at these NPR contributor bios, and see if their pictures match with your images of them.
Feb 05

Hunch bets on whether Dodgers will improve


It should be easy, right? But it’s not.

What needs to be emphasized, in trying to gauge whether the Dodgers will be improved this season, is how unpredictable baseball is. Whether it’s Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp or Josh Lindblom and A.J. Ellis, year-to-year changes among players are volatile. Trends and cynics are made to be broken.

In the chart below, listing the players who’d likely be the Dodger Opening Day roster if the season started today, I’m laying out my hunches on where the Dodgers will be better and where they’ll be worse. The net change, in my view, is a positive – but the positives are a) not particularly dramatic ones and b) perhaps a bit optimistic. (Fool me thrice, James, shame on you, but fool me four times …)

The Dodgers haven’t made any moves this winter to become significantly better. That doesn’t mean they will be worse than they were in 2011, and getting just a little better could be enough to keep them in the thick of the 2012 pennant race into the summer and trade deadline fever. The most negative thing I would say about the 2012 Dodgers is that there’s a lesser chance of a World Series title than of the roof caving in. But hey – I’m not counting either possibility out!

Player +/- Comment
Clayton Kershaw 0 Still young, but asking a lot to expect improvement over award-winning season.
Chad Billingsley + As in 2010, should improve from a disappointing year.
Ted Lilly - 36 years old and trending down for past three seasons.
Aaron Harang - Good environment for him, but can’t see him outpitching 2011 Kuroda.
Chris Capuano - Has never had an ERA lower than Dodgers’ 2011 No. 5 starters, who had 3.81 ERA in 31 starts.
Kenley Jansen + We’ll hold out hope for his excellence to extend over full season.
Javy Guerra 0 Without a dominant strikeout rate, not confident in a big step forward.
Matt Guerrier + Making a hunch bet here that he’ll be more effective after inconsistent NL debut.
Todd Coffey + Could bring stability in place of last year’s Broxton-Kuo-Troncoso-Cormier-Padilla combo.
Mike MacDougal - All things considered, Dodgers probably got a little lucky with him last year.
Scott Elbert + Now that his role is defined, 26-year-old with K ability can take another step forward.
Josh Lindblom + See Elbert. No reason for this guy to be in minors other than roster games.
A.J. Ellis + Despite power shortage, I’ll venture he’s better than Barajas over 100 games.
James Loney + Sheesh – who knows? We’ll bet he has another hot streak without repeating terrible ’11 start.
Mark Ellis + Dodger 2B had .627 OPS last year. Maybe Ellis improves on that with better defense.
Dee Gordon + Will bet on him having growth.
Juan Uribe + Has to be at least a little better this year than last.
Juan Rivera - Could be the No. 3 left fielder by May.
Matt Kemp 0 See Kershaw.
Andre Ethier + At minimum, good chance of him recovering 2010 form.
Matt Treanor 0 Not significantly better than Navarro.
Jerry Hairston 0 Hairston and Kennedy are essentially replacing Blake and Miles.
Adam Kennedy - Guaranteed $800,000 contract makes little more sense to me than Navarro’s deal last year.
Jerry Sands + Not expecting an All-Star, but plenty of chance for him to play signficant role.
Tony Gwynn Jr. 0 At 29, we probably know what we’re going to get.
Total +7
Feb 03

Dodgers to sign reliever Coffey

The Dodgers have signed runnin’ righty reliever Todd Coffey, pending a physical, to a one-year deal for $1.3 million, reports Dylan Hernandez of the Times.

The signing comes as a bit of a surprise, considering how full the Dodger bullpen seems even without counting on someone like Ronald Belisario. Los Angeles already has Javy Guerra, Kenley Jansen, Matt Guerrier, Josh Lindblom, Mike MacDougal, Blake Hawksworth (who is recovering from arthroscopic surgery) and Scott Elbert, as well as some promising arms in the minors.

The 31-year-old Coffey is better than the worst of that bunch, averaging 6.9 strikeouts per nine innings last year and 6.7 for his career. Opponents last year had a .305 on-base percentage and .351 slugging percentage against him. He stranded 29 of 36 inherited runners in 2011 (81 percent), a rate that was far better than he normally has. But he’s not so much better that I would see this as anything more as a move to add depth to the relief corps.

Update: Steve Slowinski of Fangraphs calls this signing “excellent,” with the important caveat that Coffey has wide platoon splits favoring him against right-handed batters. Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness also approves.

Feb 03

Keeping busy in their spare time

We often joke about the Dodgers and their community efforts, ever since Jamie McCourt made her ill-fated “Dreamfields” comment a few years ago, but the scope of what the organization does for the community is pretty massive.

To get a grasp of it, check out their 2011 Community Report.

* * *

  • Josh Wilker, again. Tragic news regarding one of his inspirations.
  • Cincinnati slugger Joey Votto will become a free agent after the 2013 season. David Schoenfield of ESPN.com’s Sweet Spot speculates that the Dodgers will be one of six teams in most dogged pursuit of Votto at that time — if they can wait that long.
  • Scott Andes of Lasorda’s Lair chronicles the long list of injuries the Dodgers suffered in 2011.
  • Casting has more or less just gotten underway for pilots under consideration for the 2012-13 TV season. For Variety, I wrote a story about how familiar female names are dominating the early going: Kirstie Alley, Roseanne Barr, Jami Gertz, Judy Greer, Marcia Gay Harden, Anne Heche, Reba McEntire, Rhea Perlman and Sarah Silverman. Some might call it “proven veteran leadership.”
Feb 02

Durocher Day

Dodger Thoughts commenter Bob Hendley passed along this photo of Leo Durocher and Laraine Day with his mother-in-law in Santo Domingo during Spring Training. 1948. Very cool.

Speaking of Durocher: Variety reported Wednesday that Christopher Meloni has been cast to play Durocher in “42,” the upcoming feature film starring Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson and Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey.

For more on Durocher, check out chapter 57 of 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die: “The Head-Spinning, Allegiance-Shifting, Authority-Defying Leo Durocher.”

Elsewhere …

  • Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods: still writing, still wonderful.
  • Today in Jon SooHoo: Pitching in his first major-league game in Canada on May 17, 2001, Eric Gagne gets a standing ovation from fans in Montreal. In that game, Gagne allowed two solo homers in the first inning, then pitched two-hit, shutout ball over the next five innings, striking out seven and walking none — but the Dodgers lost, 3-1.
  • Steven Cohen, one of the well-funded Dodger bidders, is pursuing a minority share in the Mets for the time being, according to Bill Shaikin of the Times. If Cohen ended up winning on the Dodgers’ front, he would then sell that Mets share. Shaikin notes that “Cohen has cleared a Major League Baseball investigation, the people said, which could bode well for his chances in the Dodgers sweepstakes.”
  • “The Verducci Effect,” which states that young pitchers who have large increases in innings pitched will decline the following year, is built on faulty methodology, concludes Derek Carty of Baseball Prospectus.
  • Former Dodger pitcher Vicente Padilla is facing legal problems in Nicaragua over child support payments. That could prevent him from reporting to Spring Training on time, although the amount in question has been reported to be only $4,200.
  • Instant-replay reviews in sports aren’t as cut-and-dry as you might think, writes David Cohen in his column for Variety.
  • Here’s a cute follow-up from Volkswagen to last year’s awesome kiddie Darth Vader ad for the Super Bowl.
Feb 01

No charges against Loney following November arrest

As initially reported by TMZ, the Los Angeles City Attorney has declined to pursue charges against James Loney for his DUI arrest in November, citing “insufficient evidence.”

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more, writing that “the decision not to charge Loney, the spokesman said, was the result of all of Loney’s toxicology tests coming back negative.”

 

Feb 01

More Dodger prospect rankings


We saw Dodger prospect rankings from Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus on Monday, and now here’s a list from Marc Hulet at Fangraphs today. Zach Lee, (above, via MLB.com) tops both lists. Comparing the top 15s:

Site BP Fangraphs
1 Lee Lee
2 Eovaldi Eovaldi
3 Webster Reed
4 Reed Webster
5 Gould Gould
6 Withrow Withrow
7 Silverio Silverio
8 Pederson Pederson
9 Castellanos Federowicz
10 Sanchez Lindblom
11 Tolleson Santana
12 Baldwin Tolleson
13 Federowicz Baldwin
14 Martin De Jesus
15 Lindblom Miller
Jan 31

Derrick and the ownership dominoes

Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall, the former Dodger executive recovering from prostate cancer, is the subject of a fantastic piece at Yahoo! Sports by Steve Henson. Parenthetically, as Steve Dilbeck of the Times notes, “several groups in the running to purchase the team from Frank McCourt have already approached Hall about becoming the Dodgers’ lead executive should they prove to have the winning bid.”

In another blog post, Dilbeck passes along this Ray McNulty interview for TCPalm.com with Peter O’Malley, who reiterated that his direct involvement in Dodger operations, should he return as owner, probably would be a year or less. “Things need to be stabilized, and I’d have a role in that,” O’Malley said. “But beyond that, the key is to bring in good management people to run the day-to-day operation.”

O’Malley has investment support from South Korean conglomerate E-Land, according to Bill Shaikin of the Times.

Meanwhile, Jon Heyman writes at CBSSports.com about the possibility of billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong pushing the Magic Johnson-fronted ownership group to the head of the pack.

  • Late bloomer Scott Van Slyke is the subject of a feature by Ken Gurnick at MLB.com that gives you some development background on the first baseman-outfielder you might have missed.
  • Howard Megdal has an interesting comparison of Edwin Jackson and Jason Schmidt at MLB Trade Rumors.

    … The year was 2001. The Diamondbacks had just beaten the Yankees in the World Series. George Harrison died. Anthrax was in the air.

    But none of that stopped Jason Schmidt. The righty, about to enter his age-29 season, had put up an ERA+ of 107 while pitching for two teams. For his career, his ERA+ stood at 99, with career walk rate of 3.8 per nine innings and a strikeout rate of 6.9 per nine innings. He was rewarded with a five-year, $41MM contract from San Francisco.

    Fast forward ten years, and look at Edwin Jackson. The righty, about to enter his age-29 season, has just put up an ERA+ of 106 while pitching for two teams. For his career, his ERA+ stands at 97, with a walk rate of 3.7 per nine innings and a strikeout rate of 6.7 per nine innings. And he can’t find a job.

    If Schmidt is any indication, today’s teams are missing an opportunity for a bargain. Over his next five seasons, Schmidt pitched just over 1,000 innings at an ERA+ of 127. He made three All Star teams, finished in the top four of Cy Young voting twice, won an ERA title in 2003, and reduced his walks to 3.2 per nine while elevating his strikeouts to 9.0 per nine. He was well worth that $41MM investment. …

    Jackson might settle for a one-year deal for 2012.

  • Jayson Stark’s All-Unemployed team, at the bottom of his latest column for ESPN.com, includes Jackson and Aaron Miles, among others.
  • Today in Jon SooHoo: Joel Guzman, Jonathan Broxton, Willy Aybar, Russell Martin, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier together in 2006.
  • American-Japanese minor-league pitcher Robert Boothe was released by the Dodgers, according to Matt Eddy of Baseball America.
  • Bill Petti at Beyond the Boxscore looks at which teams had the most players producing  negative Wins Above Replacement since 2002. The Dodgers were in the better half.
  • Justin Timberlake will play a young baseball scout opposite Clint Eastwood as an older scout in upcoming feature film “Trouble With the Curve,” Jeff Sneider and Justin Kroll of Variety report. Amy Adams will play Eastwood’s daughter.
  • As for my day at the office, it included a blog post looking at the present and future of the post-Steve Carell “The Office.” I’m thinking mine is a minority view, but see if I convince any of you.
  • Congrats to Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News, who won a special appreciation award at the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Some guys named Kershaw, Monday and Scully also got mentioned for some honor or other.
Jan 31

Exclusive: Interview with Old Hoss Radbourn

Hall of Fame pitcher Charles Gardner “Old Hoss” Radbourn began his earthly existence in 1854, made his major-league debut in 1880 and forsook his mortal coil in 1897. None of that, however, has prevented him from becoming one of the most lively presences on Twitter today.

Recently, the fogey-but-a-goodie kindly deigned to give Dodger Thoughts an exclusive interview, the contents of which follow herewith:

* * *

1) We have to start by asking what your reaction is to the ownership crisis in Los Angeles involving Frank McCourt?

I suppose there is some-thing to be learnt here about trusting one’s spouse with one’s property. My lass was given an ownership stake in a single place: the kitchen.

On a slightly more serious note, I suppose this is a useful lesson about carefully vetting one’s owners and making sure they are financially solvent. I am sure that no one in the upper echelons of base ball’s management will pay attention to this.

2) The Dodgers play in Los Angeles. What kind of appeal does this city hold for an oldtimer like yourself?

None, I am afraid. Base ball is meant to be played in nasty, inclement weather with angry, miserable louts for fans who take the sport too seriously and seek nothing more than to horse-whip you for making the slightest of mistakes. I believe this insane misanthropy has in recent years been mis-labeled as “passion.”

3) In 1884, you won 59 games for Providence (only 23 fewer than the Dodgers won in 2012). So my question is, if you were playing one-on-nine against the Dodgers, would you win?

As you know, J. Weisman, it is quite foolish to compare different base ball across the centuries. This is because my era was so much better. I would estimate, and I shall be conservative, that I would win a game by an approximate score of 17-4. I concede that one M. Kemp would account for at least three and likely four home runs, but otherwise I lose little sleep over the Dodgers’ line-up. Please note that my answer changes quite drastically based on the fellow named in question 7.

4) Who’s tougher — you or Tommy Lasorda?

I assume by linking “tough” and “T. La Sorda” you are referring to a toughness reminiscent of an old blubbery mound of lasagna, impossible to chew and tough to stomach for any amount of time. This well reminds me of T. La Sorda, and I must concede this title to him.

5) Lasorda bleeds blue. What color do you bleed?

This is quite difficult to answer, as I am dead. In my time some swore I sweated poppy juice, though this was but a deuced miserable rumor. I have always fancied myself a Gray, and view their collapse as a result of my departure from their team merely as an indicator of how important I was to the franchise.

6) What was it like facing Juan Castro?

You should ask J. Moyer this, who has been pitching for far longer than me.

7) Which current Dodger do you most admire, and why?

Watching C. Kershaw throw that beautiful looping parabola of a curve ball makes my bones ache. Good god he is a joy to watch take the mound.

8 ) Would you have enjoyed having Manny Ramirez as a teammate?

I would indeed. I rarely needed the assistance of my fielders, as I preferred to obtain outs on my own, and thus his comical adventures in left would hardly have been noticed. Had he made a mistake at a critical time, of course, after the contest he’d find a shiv in his back and a one-way ticket to the bottom of San Pedro Bay.

9) What, in your mind, is the most memorable moment in Dodger history?

Certainly changing their name from “Superbas” must rank rather highly. Another high point came on June 12, 1891, when Darby O’Brien — an Irishman!! — hit a three-run home run off of me in the bottom of the first inning in Brooklyn. This was the only home run I ever gave up to a member of that storied franchise. We should ignore that Mr. O’Brien only hit 19 additional such shots. He is not mourned.

On a more modern note, I have always been partial to Gil Hodges going 0-21 in the 1952 World’s Series. This is not out of some malevolent delight in watching a batsman suffer, though in truth what hurler would not enjoy this? Rather, it is a great appreciation for the sense of camaraderie and affection that existed for Hodges, a fellow who lived in Brooklyn and was something much more than what the term “fan favorite” connotes. The love that borough held for their first base man, even when mired in such an infelicitous slump, is one of the reasons generations of people still fondly reminisce about the Trolley Dodgers. Hoss must admit a soft spot for one G. Hodges.

10) Would you say Vin Scully is one of baseball’s great broadcasters, or is he still too young and needing to prove himself?

I will never say a harsh or jocular word about former Providence Grays bat boy V. Scully.